Proofreading and editing: What are the differences and the importance of proofreading in academic publication

Importance of proofreading and editing

Proofreading and editing: What are the differences and the importance of proofreading in academic publication

Proofreading meaning

Proofreading is the quality assurance process of finding and correcting grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, wrong punctuation, incorrect tone and consistencies, improper page layout and font, formatting errors, issues in figures, tables, boxes, and equations, typographical errors, and style non-conformance before printing. Proofreading is the final step in the writing and editing process.

In technical terms, “Proofreading is the reading of text in proof in order to find and mark errors for correction” or “A trial or preliminary impression to be checked for errors and marked for correction before subsequent revision.” It is the final process of polishing a draft by working on the finer details of the draft and not about working on the final draft to carry out any form of editing. In generally, proofreading could include books, journal articles, essays, reports, dissertations, presentations, research papers, portfolios, and many other pieces of writing that involve publication. Essentially it is important to note that proof is a draft and not the final version.

Proofreading is also pertinent to apply in our personal and professional context as well, for example, e-mails, cover letters, CVs, writing online and applications, etc.

Editing – meaning

Editing is the first task of review undertaken in the process of writing manuscripts, applied after a writer completes writing the first draft. Editing essentially involves checking the content for the text and making substantial corrections and changes such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. Editing aims at looking at several key aspects such as tone of the content, logical flow of the information, coherence and consistency of the information, clear meaning of the complete work, precise and concise expression of the idea, accuracy of the information provided vis-à-vis purpose of the work, and content targeting the right audience. Hence, editing is not just about correcting mistakes, but also about making sure that the paper has no errors left from the author’s end.

Difference between proofreading and editing

Many of us consider proofreading and editing to be synonymous tasks and thus, miscontrue the working of the set two different processes.

Proofreading focuses on the following

a. Grammar

b. Punctuation

c. Spelling and usage

d. Capitalization

e. Numbers

f. Formatting of the document

Proofreading does not involve any form of rewriting or rearranging a document and only involves fixing mistakes. Proofreading is the next stage after editing and is often at the very end of the process just before the final draft is ready for print or publication. Proofreading requires minimal effort and time, but at the same time it is the most crucial process. In case the proofreader finds too many mistakes in the text, the proofreader then could send back the copy to the editor. Usually, there is no line of communication between the author and the proofreader. Comments and suggestions of the proofreader are routed through the publisher.

Editing focuses on the following

a.  Grammar and language quality

b.  Clarity of writing

c.  Coherence and organization

d.  Format/structure of writing

e. Adherence to guidelines

f.  Concise language usage

g.  Sentence structure

h.  Economy/efficiency of words

i.  Word count

Essentially, editing involves rewriting and often rearranging the document text. Editing aims at rewriting and rewording clunky sentences to ensure that the text is strong as well as smooth, in order to attain a meaningful flow and making sure the writing is found riveting by the reader. Editing calls for a lot of effort and involvement – a very lengthy process and a lot more daunting compared to proofreading. The editor can provide feedback to the author and there is a communication line between the two.

Why is proofreading important?

Proofreading is a critical part in the publication cycle. It ensures the text matches the quality acceptable for publishing. Obviously, a manuscript with grammatical and spelling errors gives the impression of a sloppy, inattentive to detail, and unreliable writer- errors related to typos or accidentally misspelled words can have a significant impact on the overall quality of a draft that can disqualify a manuscript from consideration. Even in other forms of writing outside publishing, such as business writing, printing a brochure with an error right on the opening headline cannot just lead to loss of money because of reprinting, but also can create a negative impression on the reputation of a company. Also, a curriculum vitae of a job applicant with egregious language errors in describing their previous job or experience is a candidate for rejection. And the scale of importance widens in extensive writing tasks such as journal articles, books, research papers, theses or any form of writing that is academic in nature. Academic publishing requires error-free drafts because they are published for educational purposes that are considered the epitome of signifying value and credibility that the information presented is reliable and of the highest quality.

Any form of written document or draft that is meant for scholarly purposes would be read by individuals of high value and education, which requires presentation and quality that match the field reputation and reader standards. When a researcher or scholar writes a draft intending to target the scholarly community, the core value of the draft is in the quality and the accurate representation of the subject matter in order to create a good impression with the readers. Achieving this level of writing requires information accuracy, high language quality, and a formal and systematic presentation. And content is the most significant part of writing, as the quality of the content is going to be judged by others. A draft of low quality because of technical errors will be discounted by the publisher as well as readers. Which is why, it is of utmost importance for a writer to proofread the written draft, regardless of the level of skill in writing, to ensure the draft is free from language and technical errors.

Majority of research-related and academic manuscripts get rejected during a peer review, due to the manuscript failing to meet the quality and standards required in scholarly publishing. Therefore, proofreading the manuscript before submission is an essentiality. A well-proofread article will always have a better chance of getting published.

The proofreading stage covers the following

1. Grammar and spelling

2. Punctuation and paragraphing

3. Key terms and phrases

4. A check of technical and determining elements and whether they are systematically and masterfully incorporated into the writing.

5. A check of the document format for consistency.

6. Verification of the draft for conformance to academic and publishing standards.

Proofreading tools and techniques

1. Avoid relying on tools and focus more on manual techniques

Given the fact that proofreading tools can curtail the time taken to proofread a manuscript, they aren’t often reliable and effective as these tools are still underdeveloped in terms of their ability to synchronize with varying writing styles.

Though useful in correcting spelling and grammatical errors, proofreading tools are not effective for identifying sentences which are subjective in nature and where connotations are not represented in simple terms.

2. Understanding the writing style

The writing style differs based on the nature of the manuscript and the target audience. The writing style involved in writing an essay, thesis, dissertation, or a journal article has its native rules and demands that cannot be put together and represented at the same time. Effective proofreading requires one to have a clear understanding of the type of language used that is in sync with the context and varied nature of the document.

3. Plagiarism and novelty

Plagiarism of scholarly work is strictly disapproved by publishing houses and academic institutions. It is the core task of a proofreader to verify the information presented is authentic and not replicated or copied from other sources. Even if so, proper citation should be maintained to cite the origin of the sources borrowed as well as the owner of the source should be credited. Publishers advocate original and novel ideas, as opposed to plagiarism.

4. Analytical presence

The written text must possess an analytical flow, which is the most critical aspect of that tells apart an excellent write-up from a mediocre one. A proofreader should ensure the presence of  logical flow of thoughts and ideas that are integrated concisely and precisely to represent the critical aspects of the topic consistently. Effective proofreading is defined by the ability to review each line whether or not the written language follows critical thinking.

Proofreading services

Proofreading services are offered by trained professionals who are experts in spotting grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors and various other fundamental aspects of academic writing. Professional proofreaders examine a manuscript to ensure the quality meets the publishing standards before approving a draft for publication.

The advantage of availing proofreading services is in the fact that proofreading certifies a draft is fit for publishing. Identified errors and mistakes are highlighted and sent to the editor to rectify the mistakes that follows with another round of proofreading to ensure the manuscript is free from errors and is of the highest quality possible before publishing. Professional proofreading services use industry standard methods to identify plagiarism to authenticate sources and facts, ensuring the draft is original and won’t face copyright claims. Professional proofreading services also ensure the manuscript is edited effectively so as to qualify for journal selection.


Proofreading is a process that is sometimes not given its due importance. Hence, proofreading is the most essential component in the publication cycle, which makes it certain that a manuscript meets the quality, adheres to the required standards, is free from errors, and is professional to suit academic standards of publishing.

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